Research found lower vitamin D levels correlated with total body fat and abdominal fat in women and with abdominal and liver fat in men. In both genders, lower vitamin levels were linked to increased belly fat, according to the study.
The Dutch research team, from the VU University Medical Center and Leiden University Medical Center, examined data from the Netherlands Epidemiology of Obesity study involving men and women ages 45 to 65. The researchers wanted to know more about lower vitamin D levels and whether excess fat and its location was important.
The researchers said they plan to investigate what may responsible for the strong association between vitamin D levels and obesity — whether a lack of vitamin D is predisposing individuals to store fat, or whether increased fat levels are decreasing vitamin D levels.
Vitamin D is being investigated for potential benefits to heart health, cancer, diabetes, hypertension and autoimmune problems, among other illnesses. A deficiency has been linked to weight gain and obesity. Due to the vitamin's importance to human health — and because about one in 10 Americans have a vitamin D deficiency — researchers are looking into what causes the problem and ways to solve it.
Manufacturers have been adding more vitamin D to consumer products for decades. Milk has been by fortified with vitamin D since the 1930s, and Kellogg includes vitamin D in cereal products. Fruit juices and margarine also are fortified with the nutrient to meet at least part of the daily requirement. In 2016, the Food and Drug Administration approved adding more vitamin D to milk, plant-based beverages intended as milk alternatives and plant-based yogurt alternatives.
It can sometimes be a challenge to introduce more vitamin D to product formulas. The fat-soluble vitamin can deliver an off-taste to milk, so ingredient suppliers stress that custom premixes, adequate blending and/or encapsulation are important to meet customer expectations regarding taste and mouthfeel.
While food and beverage makers advertise added vitamin D, whether consumers are paying attention isn't always clear. However, they might become more aware of vitamin D's presence as the revised Nutrition Facts label starts showing up on products because it requires new recommended daily values for vitamin D.
The labeling changes, the vitamin D deficiency problem and its link with obesity and other health issues present an opportunity for food and beverage manufacturers to draw attention to items containing natural or added sources of the nutrient. It could illustrate their concern for public health and how they're making efforts to make sure consumers get enough of it. In turn, consumers might see the connection and increase their vitamin D intake.
It might be wise for such consumers, or anyone who wants to lower excess body fat, to have their vitamin D level checked. If it's low, they could introduce foods and beverages containing the vitamin into their diets. Other than sunshine, good sources of vitamin D include salmon, canned tuna, fortified orange juice, swordfish, eggs and sardines.